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TBA Online: News & Features: June 2018

Beyond the Tonys: A Regional Awards Roundup

Wednesday, June 6, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Rotimi Agbabiaka

On June 10, theatre artists across the nation will be glued to their screens, watching the Tony Awards and dreaming of the acceptance speeches they’ll one day make. Presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League, the Tonys—officially known as the Antoinette Perry Awards—reward excellence in Broadway productions and are considered the highest recognition in American theatre.

However, theatre makers need not look only to Broadway for validation. The nation’s robust regional theatre network provides a variety of local opportunities to celebrate theatrical excellence. Here’s our handy guide to some of the noteworthy theatre awards across the nation. 

A performance at the Elliot Norton Awards. Photo courtesy the Boston Theater Critics Association.


Elliot Norton Awards

Informally known as The Norties, these awards are presented by The Boston Theater Critics Association (BTCA) and named after Elliot Norton, the distinguished Boston theatre critic. Currently in their 36th year, The Norties recognize outstanding Boston area productions with over two dozen awards including the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, which celebrates an artist’s body of work. Nominees are announced in April and awards are handed out in May.

Notable Recipients
Cherry Jones, Billy Porter, Anna Deveare Smith 

Porchlight Theatre's Scottsboro Boys, recipient of a 2017 Jeff Award. Photo courtesy Porchlight Theatre.


 Joseph Jefferson Awards  (aka "The Jeffs")

One of the oldest and most notable regional awards, the Jeff awards have been recognizing locally produced Equity shows in Chicago since 1968. In 1973, the Jeff Committee extended recognition to include nonequity theatre productions, which are presented at a separate awards night. The awards are named after the 19th century actor Joseph Jefferson III and evaluate over 250 productions. When the Jeff Committee announced its nonequity nominees this April, it joined awards organizations like Theatre Bay Area in making the performance categories nonbinary. 

Notable Recipients

Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, Aaron Poesner, Michael Shannon


The 2017 Ovation Awards. Photo by Ryan Miler/Capture Imaging. 


Ovation Awards

Presented by the LA Stage Alliance, these peer-judged awards recognize theatre productions in the Greater Los Angeles area. Begun as honorary awards in 1989, they became competitive in 1993 and currently allow over 300 productions to compete in 35 categories each year. In true LA style, the awards usually feature such celebrity hosts as Nathan Lane and Neil Patrick Harris.

Notable Recipients

Luis Alfaro, Sam Harris, Laurie Metcalf

11th Hour Theatre Company's Lizzie, a Barrymore award recipient. Photo courtesy Theatre Philadelphia.



Barrymore Awards

Since 1994, the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre have celebrated professional theatre in Philadelphia. Named after the famed Philadelphia-based theatrical family, these awards are usually presented in the fall and also include cash awards totaling over $75,000 dollars.

Notable recipients

Zoe Caldwell, James Ijames

Margo Hall receiving the Jerry Freidman Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 SFBTCC Awards. Photo by Colin Hussey.



San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards

For 42 years, the Excellence in Theatre Awards have been presented by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. The awards ceremony has gone from a small auditorium in the Academy of Sciences to a large gala affair to downsizing in 2002 due to lost funding during the economic slump. In 2009, a grant from Actors’ Equity enabled a restoration of the glitz and the most recent awards gala was held in March at San Francisco’s historic Victoria theatre. Awards are given in three tiers based on the number of seats in the theatre house.

Notable Recipients

James Carpenter, Margo Hall, Denmo Ibrahim

Attendees at the TBA Awards celebration. Photo by Jim Norrena.



Theatre Bay Area Awards

Now in their fifth year, the TBA Awards are the new but mighty kids on the block. The awards program uses a peer-based process to evaluate Bay area productions in three tiers, based on the budget and Equity category of participating theatres. During the season, hundreds of local professionals attend shows and score them in various categories. The scores determine who appears on the weekly list of “TBA Awards Recommended” shows as well as the finalists and recipients of TBA Awards, which are presented at a gala celebration in the fall. At last year’s celebration, Theatre Bay Area announced that the acting awards would henceforth be gender-inclusive, making them one of the first theatre awards programs to end the practice of giving separate awards to male and female actors.

Notable recipients

Nina Ball, Marcus Gardley, Bill Irwin

GALA Hispanic Theatre's In The Heights, a Helen Hayes Award recipient. Photo by Rose Campiglia.


Helen Hayes Awards 

Named after Helen Hayes, the famed actress known as the “First Lady of Theatre” and a recipient of the first Tony Award for Best Actress, these awards have recognized productions in the D.C. area since 1983. 40 judges on five panels attend approximately 200 eligible productions to determine who will receive the awards at a ceremony held in the spring. The awards are given in two tiers—the Helen (non-Equity) and the Hayes (Equity).

Notable Recipients

Laurence Fishburne, David Ives, Mary Zimmerman

Rotimi Agbabiaka is the Features Curator for Theatre Bay Area. He is an actor, writer, director, teaching artist, and a collective member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Learn more about him at